Side Views

Lynas sets the tone, while BN dances to its tune ― Fuziah Salleh

December 12, 2012

DEC 12 ― When the four ministers issued a joint statement that Lynas’s waste must be exported out of Malaysia, Lynas was hit hard and had to halt its shares trading.

Some desperate politicians from the ruling government thought that they could salvage dwindling support for the government by reiterating that Lynas has to ship its waste back. The reason given that the government is not prepared to compromise on the health of its citizens was an opportunity not to be missed for some BN ministers who are desperate to win votes.

AELB knew very well that the export of radioactive waste is not allowed according to international law. Yet AELB put down a letter of undertaking from Lynas to remove its waste from Malaysia as a requirement of the temporary operating licence (TOL).

Knowing full well that this cannot happen, since Australia has made it very clear that they will not accept Lynas’s toxic radioactive waste, apart from the terms laid down by international law. However it was still put down as a requirement of the TOL. Certainly this clause is none other than an effort to hoodwink the anti-Lynas groups.

Interestingly, soon after the joint ministerial statement on December 10, which brought Lynas shares trading to a halt, Maximus Ongkili, the minister science, technology and innovation, came to Lynas’s rescue.

Even when Ongkili said yesterday that Lynas’s radioactive and toxic waste will have to be exported out of the country, he knew that technically it cannot happen. That is why Ongkili was quick to add that if the waste is commercialized, it can then be exported since it is no longer classified as hazardous materials.

Ongkili continued to say that Lynas can export waste materials that has been turned into commercial items termed co-products, provided that the radioactivity is reduced to less than 1 Bq|g. In doing so he openly admitted the fact (which I have stated all these while) about the plan by Lynas to dilute their radioactive waste. The process of dilution allows for the waste to be declassified from being labelled as radioactive.

In his haste the MOSTI minister must have forgotten the ‘plot’ that the letter of undertaking by Lynas to remove the waste out of the country was just a spin to pull the wool over the eyes of anti-Lynas groups.

When Mashal of Lynas openly admitted that international law does not allow for exportation of radioactive waste, he incidentally had called the bluff of the four ministers.

The guideline in the “Radioactive Waste Management Plan” put together by AELB in 2011, which is three years after Lynas was given licence to construct, was written in hindsight with the realization that our country indeed does NOT have a guideline for radioactive waste management, and some clause can be interpreted as facilitating Lynas in getting rid of its radioactive waste.

The guideline allows for dilution of the radioactive waste so that once it is declassified, from being labelled as radioactive, it can then be processed as commercial items.

Let us remind ourselves that if Lynas were to operate their plant in Australia, they will have to return their toxic and radioactive waste back to the mine in Mt Weld. Other rare earth refinery such as Molycorps is subjected to the same requirements ― to send back their radioactive waste to the mine.

But in Malaysia, not only does Lynas enjoy 12 years’ tax break, they get their electricity, water and gas at a subsidised rate, too, courtesy of the rakyat.

Lynas has had things going their way for so long ― since the beginning, in fact. Thus Lynas will not allow anything to come in its way now. The rakyat is waiting and watching on what the government will do next.

* Fuziah Salleh is the member of parliament for Kuantan.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.